BOSTON (CBS/AP) — People who say their family members were killed by former Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger and his cohorts will have their testimony limited during his murder trial.
Bulger’s defense lawyers had sought to limit that testimony so relatives couldn’t describe the emotional impact of losing loved ones. But they withdrew the motion Monday after prosecutors said their questions would aim to determine facts such as how relatives identified bodies of loved ones, not illicit emotional responses.
The issue was among more than a dozen pretrial motions heard by a U.S. District Court judge. Jury selection begins Tuesday. The witness list is packed with mobsters.
Bulger denies playing a role in 19 murders. The 83-year-old fled in 1994 after being tipped off he was about to be indicted. He was captured in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2011.
In what was almost certainly attorney J.W. Carney’s shortest press conference ever, the lead lawyer for Bulger stepped to the microphones outside of federal court Monday and said only, “It’s nice to see all of you again and I hope you have a pleasant evening.”
Carney was following new rules established just hours earlier by U.S. District Court Judge Denise Casper that forbid him from holding his usual talks with reporters outside of court.
Alleged victims and their families, happy to see Carney muzzled.
“It’s about time that the judge actually shut him up,” says Stephen Rakes, the former South Boston liquor store owner who claims Bulger and his accomplices muscled him out of business years ago.
Alleged victims were glad to learn today that Judge Casper will allow them to take the stand and be questioned by the prosecution, as long as the question do not elicit any emotions. Carney had sought to have such witnesses barred altogether.
Bulger himself sat stone-faced throughout the lengthy pre-trial hearing. He used two pairs of glasses, one for distance and one for close-up reading.
He was largely motionless and at times he slouched in his chair between two members of his defense team.
Still, some in court noticed a difference in the trim 83-year-old.
Patricia Donahue’s husband is one of the men Bulger is alleged to have killed. She and her son Tommy routinely attend court proceedings. This afternoon, she thought Bulger had regained some of his swagger.
“When he came in, he kind of had like that little confident look,” she says. He seemed very confident because his lawyer was there with him.”
Once the trial gets underway though, she says, Bulger will “be in for a shock.”
WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong contributed to this report.
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